What’s in the glass tonight January 31st – Chardonnay

Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2010 2

From the Cellar: Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay Martinborough 2010 – $$$

Pale gold 13.5%.

A single-vineyard wine by the great Martinborough producer. Made from fruit off Mendoza clone vines planted in 1983 – that is old for NZ – and barrel-fermented with wild yeasts.

Smelled big, mealy and refined; with rich and toasty cashew and dried apricot aromas. Gorgeous.

Seamless and elegant to drink. I saw generous golden fruit flavours. A subtle citrus note. Cashew that gives way to almond.

This is a richly textured cru Chardonnay with a lovely crunchy bitter finish. Splendid & worth the wait!

Outstanding 5


What’s in the glass tonight – October 24th

Three Wizards of Oz

A big beautiful grab-bag of wines today!! Feeling very fortunate.

A and OB1 gave us a lovely bottle of Aussie Shiraz as a wedding present. After Saturday’s ride, I asked OB1 whether I should ‘drink or hold’? He must have asked A, cos she then came back to me to say that L and I must come over to try a glass and decide for ourselves! And so we did….

Joseph Angel Glly 2011

Joseph Angel Gully Shiraz Clarendon McLaren Vale 2011

Enjoyed on their deck bathed in the sun. The best way to drink a wine from the Lucky Country!

Deep dark carmine. Primo vino. 14.5%. Floral, big, aromatic, licorice, cedar, choc mocha. Superb. Made in an Amarone style – intense berries, soft ripe fruit.

Amazeballs. Outstanding 5

Then we were able to try this beauty…

Joseph Cab Cav Merl Moda 2011

Joseph Moda Cab Sav Merlot McLaren Vale 2011

Deep dark carmine. 15% alc. Somewhat closed nose, eucalyptus, pencil shavings and graphite.

Mushrooms, underbrush, wild thyme. Wants another year or two to open out. Amazing fruit. A gorgeous food wine.

Sibling of Amazeballs. BTVG 4+

Pra Otto Soave

Then we headed off to J and B’s house for dinner. I brought along a bottle of Pra Otto Soave 2013 which served as a light and pretty aperitif, but this was the star of the meal:

Jacobs Creek Double Barrel Shiraz

Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz  2012

Finished in aged whiskey barrels. First vintage.

Heady bouquet liquorice, spice, and dark plums.

Generous and rich on palate with red fruits and dark choc, vanilla, nutty notes and soft dense fine tannins.

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight July 9th

Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2009

From the Cellar: Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – $$$+

We are super excited tonight.

The two youngest kids are crawling around pretending to be cats. The eldest is at a birthday party. It is very cold out. A southerly storm is blowing up the country and snow is falling everywhere.

We are packing to go on the first ski weekend of the new season…yay! Thursday nights at this time are always a bit stressful. We have to haul the ski gear out from under the house. Fit the roofbox to the car. Make sure everyone has packed everything they need for a weekend on the slopes. And we need A LOT OF STUFF…

So, get this treasured bottle out from the cellar and toast the season!

L and I bought it a few years ago from the cellar door when we were down in Marlborough for the Graperide. 14%. Sunlit golden colour. Magic.

Brilliant bouquet of gooseberry, lemon zest, lime and crisp apple.

Oaked and age-softened in the mouth. Balanced acidity and fresh fruit. Mouthwatering and zesty, but shows perfect restraint. Not too brash. A burst of sunshine smiles on an auspicious night.

Outstanding 5

What’s in the glass tonight May 16th

Man O War Ironclad 2008

Man O’ War Ironclad Waiheke 2008

Waiheke Island is rich in history; Captain James Cook anchored there during his first voyage around New Zealand in 1769 and taking note of the magnificent stands of Kauri trees, wrote in the his journals that they would make ideal masts for the “Man O’ War” warships for the Royal Navy. On a trip to the island I once found a shard splintered from a stone Maori adze that must have been worked on the very beach I was standing on over a century earlier.

This is a Bordeaux varietal wine made from a family owned wine estate situated in the iron rich clay hills of Waiheke Island off the coast of Aukland in the Hauraki Gulf. Man O’ War is owned by one of NZ’s richest families, the Spencers. They made their money from making a variety of things, including loo roll.

The wine is produced from 45 different parcels of grapes. This vintage comprises 52% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 10.5% Melbec, 9.1% Petit Verdot, and 1.4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Not sure why they bothered with the last component, no more than a margin of error in quantity…

Anyway, this wine was bloody marvellous. 14.5%. Inky black magenta. Dense rich nose. Vanilla.

Deep and aromatic with an intense attack and soft smooth texture following on, and with nicely concentrated black fruit flavours and cedar and spice. Firm tannins and a fantastic finish. Age, grace and power.


Outstanding 5

What’s in the glass tonight April 20th

Martinborough Chardonnay 2012

Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay Martinborough Terrace 2012 – $$$

Pale gold. 13% Alc.

Lovely aromatic quality, all effortless summer stonefruit, butterscotch and citrus.

In the mouth there is balanced fruit, tannin and oak. Minerally and fresh in equal measure, with a gorgeous citrussy finish. Such easy drinking, with fruit weight and elegance. Absolutely perfect. Drink more, people, all of it. Because Chardonnay.

Outstanding 5

BTW Decanter named this top wine of their tasting Chardonnay: The World’s Best (outside Burgundy) in the Mar 2015 issue. Their tasting note echoes mine, but is better expressed: Finely expressed summer fruits nose with hints of lime and apple. Perfectly poised on the palate with a certain raciness and also quite mineral. In balance, with natural fruit, citrussy richness, fine oak and a long finish.

What’s in the glass tonight March 29th

Te Mata Coleraine 1990

From the Cellar: Te Mata Coleraine Hawkes Bay 1990 – $$$ (Hammer time)

To celebrate/commiserate over the Black Caps performance in the ICC Cricket World Cup Final against Australia, i thought I would knock the top off this auction purchase and share with L, and with D and R over at their place…

Dark crimson to look at. 12%

I smelled brambles, age evolved blackcurrants and plums, and old woodshed.

Thinnish fruit in the mouth as expected (25 year old wine), but it opened up well in the glass and showed great quality, character and class. It stayed true in the glass over time. Lots to think about when nosing it. Leather and cedar notes. Worth opening, no faults I could see beyond age. Decanting worked well, we caught a lot of sediment.

Score it Outstanding 5 for longevity.

…and alas we were thrashed by Australia. What a glorious run to get to the final although 🙂

What’s in the glass tonight February 17th

Carrick Excelsior PN 2007

Carrick Excelsior Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago 2007 – $$$+

A great wine is built around the way it smells. And this wine is something special. Bought by a client at a business dinner. The restaurant had just taken a delivery of a few cases and the wine hadn’t even made the official wine list.

Carrick makes this flagship Pinot Noir from grapes harvested in their Bannockburn vineyard.

It’s a super-dense Pinot Noir with core of black cherries enveloped in spice. Lots and lots of vanilla. Rich and powerful. There are florals evident, but this delicacy has been brutally shouldered aside by broader, bolder aromatic characters.

Plums, dark chocolate, black cherry and baking spices in the mouth. Perfect ripeness. No vegetal or metallic characters. The wine has a rich velvety texture that is totally involving. Tannins are firm. Length is out through the door into the car park. It improves on standing in the glass too.

What a way to bring up my 300th post !!

Outstanding 5

Calling in the debts: What’s in the glass tonight February 2nd

Villa Maria CS Syrah Gimblett 2007 pool room

From the Cellar: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah Gimblett Gravels 2007 – $$$

One of best Syrah’s of that year, according to Cuisine Magazine in 2009.

I started my cellar collection then, and based my first four purchases on their recommendations. This is bottle No. 2 in my Little Red Cellar Book.

I opened bottle no. 4 (a Palliser Riesling) two years ago I think, and still have bottles 1 and 3 waiting their turn (both Gimblett Gravels ‘07 Syrahs). But I can’t keep them all under the house forever. I have to start calling in the debts and drinking these beauties…

This wine is inky carmine in colour. 14 %. Gorgeous bouquet of soft ripe red fruits, voilets, lots of vanilla and fresh baking notes. I could sniff this all day.

In the mouth it is smooth and balanced – ripe luscious soft black plums – great extract and density, just what I am looking for in a cool-climate syrah. Medium tannins. Long finish and mouthcoating. Top stuff.

Outstanding. 5

My drinking year is looking up.

What’s in the glass tonight December 15th

Villa Maria CS Marlb Chardonnay 2010 pool room

From the Cellar: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Chardonnay Marlborough 2010 – $$

I’m giving the ‘O’ series Reidel Chardonnay glasses their first serious workout…

Golden colour in the glass. 13.5% alcohol.

Elegant, refined bouquet. Golden stonefruits, restrained sense of oak, vanilla, mealy aromas and summer hay, signalling a complexity of tastes to follow…

In the mouth, biscuity and rich fruit, balanced acidity and oak. Lively on attack, and creamy and taut on the mid palate with complex multiple further layers of flavour behind. It has the body to hold up and exploit a little age, and shows not a hint of oxidation. An exemplary wine, superb.

I am so glad when a bottle goes through my cellar and comes out tasting like this! Outstanding 5

New Zealand Pinot Noir Worth Cellaring


Regional Wines of Wellington ran two pinot noir tastings earlier this year, under the general heading: Are They Worth Cellaring: Pinot Noir. The first week comprised NZ wines under $30, and the second week NZ wines over $30. The tastings were presented by Geoff Kelly, and were designed to complement his occasional short articles for the Regional Wines website, titled Worth Cellaring.

I attended the second over $30 tasting. I was lucky to attend the same a year earlier. I thought it would be fun to compare the two events, and vintages.

Geoff writes of the tasting on his excellent website, geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz:

Pinot noir continues to be the red wine of choice, perhaps because it can be so fragrant and delicious, perhaps because it bridges the gap beautifully between white wines and ‘serious’ red wines. Rosé, which in theory should do that job, usually fails to be satisfying. Thus pinot noir provides the perfect pathway to move from enjoying white wines to appreciating reds.

There are hundreds of New Zealand pinot noirs now. To select 12-only for each of these two exercises is therefore invidious. Our selections include wines which have won gold more than once. We then listed the wines which sell most at Regional Wines, and for the expensive set some labels which everybody wants to taste but maybe can’t afford on their own, and then there was the desire to make sure that each pinot noir district was represented somewhere in the two flights. We also put in Michael Cooper’s 2014 red wine of the year, since he has a consistency of approach which is admirable”

As before, Geoff presented all the wines blind, and decanted them into bagged bottles. They were arranged in order stylistically so that the wines followed each other in the most complimentary fashion possible, with the first of each flight “stylistically correct” as a benchmark.

The single bottles were then passed from hand to hand around the room for us 24 participants to measure out 27.5ml quantities, via wee plastic jelly-shot glasses to a level marked, and pour into our tasting glasses. We were asked to examine the wines at leisure, then discuss our impressions, and vote for our best and worst wines.

Geoff writes further; “In the preamble to these two highly enjoyable tastings, I mentioned that I had cellared my first case of grand cru burgundy from the 1969 vintage, a great year in Burgundy, and it was a wine from a vineyard which still remains stellar in my view, yet underrated: 1969 Drouhin Clos de la Roche in Morey-Saint-Denis (Cote de Nuits). My goal in such a statement was to introduce the notion, [ ], that a New Zealander not in the practical winemaking side of wine should actually know something about pinot noir the grape, and burgundy the winestyle.

So in these introductions, we talked about the notion of the pinot noir winestyle, that in the good ones it is a wine of florality, complexity and delight on bouquet, and soft sensuous and often subtle yet essentially satisfying beauty on palate. We contrasted it with the more authoritarian firm aromatic flavours and character of good cabernet, with its need for greater new oak to complement the stronger flavours of the bordeaux grape varieties.

We went on to discuss the fact that beauty in bouquet for pinot noir is a function of not over-ripening, that bigger and riper and darker is not better in pinot noir (as too many in the industry mistakenly believed in the 1990s, continuing through to this century), that the quality of pinot noir must never be judged from its colour, and that great pinot noir sustains the beauty of its bouquet right through the palate. Thus the palate must be long and supple in its fruit / oak charm and beauty, but it does not need to be strong, at all. We mentioned that in evaluating the wines, we should seek what pinot aficionados call ‘layers’ of texture as well as flavour, noting this is a pretty abstruse concept.

Basically we are seeking beautiful sweet floral smells and flavours, where the florality permeates the palate, and the whole lasts and sometimes even expands in the mouth. We mentioned that leaving aside the florals (in their hierarchy from fresh sweet pea → buddleia → rose → lilac → violets and boronia) that simple pinot noir might smell of red currants, strawberries and raspberries to a degree, but quality pinot noir smelt of red grading to black cherries, sometimes with an elusive aromatic quality hard to define, but enticing.

We then discussed the concept of over-ripeness, that the key beautiful floral aromas are simply lost in over-ripening in hot climates (why good pinot noir cannot be grown north of Martinborough (or maybe Masterton), or much south of Beaune), and that when the wine reaches the black cherry stage, be on guard, for it may all too easily pass to black plums, and that is over-ripe for absolute pinot noir beauty, with its increase in size, but the loss of florality, varietal quality and complexity.

We also raised the question of the perceived Central Otago pinot noir style, and remarked that it has been caricatured by pinot-producers from other wine districts, perhaps out of self-interest, as tending to wines which are a bit too big and fruity, though nobody would dare say jammy. There does seem to be some evidence emerging that Otago winemakers are now aiming for a less ripe, less alcoholic and less dark wines. Such a move will certainly increase florality and therefore beauty and complexity, but great care will be needed to not at the same time introduce leafyness and stalkyness. That risk is exacerbated by including stems in the ferment – the whole bunch approach – yet this technique is indisputably part of some of the greatest pinot noirs in the world.

The ripeness of the tannins in the stems (and seeds) is critical, and that seems to be a function of a climate critically appropriate to achieving full physiological maturity of flavour in pinot noir. Loosely speaking, such climates show greater continentality. The goal of such moves is to close the gap on the winestyles found in the Cote de Nuits, which by general agreement is home to the most complex expressions of pinot noir in the world.”

What a great introduction! I learnt a good deal listening to what Geoff said.

What I write below is collated from what I thought of the wines, and what others thought, before and after the wines were finally identified. In a departure from usual form, I attempted a comparable score or valuation to identify the wines I thought were wonderful.

*                                             *                                             *

2011 Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir Marlborough – the ‘sighter’ of the flight. Pink carmine colour. Fruity nose, lightly scented. To taste; bright red fruit, some acidity, light & fresh, a touch of watermelon. Quite delicious. Beautifully ripened to perfection, no stalks, not long. I like this producer very much – I adored their 2010 Brancott Vineyard PN. 3+

2012 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard Central Otago – a serious mover. Pink carmine; expressive nose, herby, brambly, elegant. Red cherries in mouth, solid depth of fruit, firm & long, a bit acidic, a bit of stalk , considered in the top three of the tasting. 4+

2012 Peregrine Pinot Noir Central Otago – a personal fav of mine. I don’t drink enough of it. Deep pink carmine; light florality, red cherries, roses, brambles. This has ripeness and depth in spades, taut, a firm structure with tannins, length, dense fruit delivery, celery nose, clipped, elemental florality, little more complex (due to Central terroir?), pretty, gratifying. This is a keeper. 4+

2011 Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough – Larry McKenna’s ‘collective statement’ pinot, as distinct from his SV wines. Deep pink carmine; Light floral red fruit. Shows depth and intensity, ripe red fruit in the mouth, elegant. Would keep well. Good acid balance, finesse, noticeable tannins (hence cellarability). 4

2012 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago – Pink carmine; Stronger floral bouquet, herbs and black fruit. Complex depth, black cherries to taste, and vanilla, nice fruit & length, firm, good body, a light touch of funk. 4+

2012 Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston Central Otago – Pink garnet; Burnt match nose, dark cherries, strong aromatics, power. Deep and structured, ripe long and velvety, even seductive. I liked it very much. Then I was told it was reductive. I have a nose for (and liking of) reductive wine. Others opined: grubby, cured meat, dull, leaden. I scored this highly for CHARACTER and INTEREST. 4+

2010 Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline’s Waitaki Valley – Deep carmine; an impact nose – all spice and all the red fruits. Delicious, with ripe red fruit & pointy lusciousness. Others saw freshness, leafy and green, sweet, lolly-like. I saw LIKE! 5

2012 Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block Cromwell Central Otago – Pink carmine; very floral, forward, impactful, a show wine. Warm & round, very ripe, almost jammy, long. Some saw brooding palate weight. Hmm, a bit too pseudo even for me. I saw 4 and cellar potential.

2012 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Cromwell Central Otago – An over-achiever this one. I have enjoyed previous editions. Deep pink carmine; very leggy. Light, medicinal nose. Tannic and bracing and ripe and very delish. A clear floral component, diffuses through mouth, very pleasing. Top 3 in the tasting. 5.

2011 Black Estate Pinot Noir Waipara – Deep pink carmine; Aniseed nose, thyme. A bit underripe, tho elegant and stylish. Short. 4

2011 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough – Pink carmine. Roses and red cherries. This shows great depth and intensity of fruit expression. Elegant, pure and refined. Very straight and restrained, with absolutely spot-on structure and balance. Did I say it also tasted wonderful? Top 3 in the tasting. 5

2011 Neudrof Moutere Pinot Noir Nelson – Pink carmine; Medicinal, light and elegant bouquet; herbs and black fruit. Tannic and drying; the boldest structure of the flight. Grippy-ness got in the way of any appreciation of the fruit/ripeness qualities of the wine. Long finish. Will cellar for a while, and needs it. 4+

2012 Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara – this was the leading wine from the Under $30 tasting, so was included here for comparison. Smells great – brambly, complex, very purple florals; involving. Light red fruits, delicious, sweet but very correct PN. 4+

This was a great reference journey through New Zealand Pinot Noir. Many thanks to GK and Regional Wines.

My only regret is that the lower boundary of the pinot bliss curve is now shading $30 per bottle…